First Ocean Vessel of 2020 Arrives at Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor

Credit: Port of Indiana-Burns

Published Apr 16, 2020 8:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

The first ocean-going vessel arrived at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor on April 13, thereby commencing the 2020 international shipping season. 

Port officials welcomed the M/V Muntgracht, a 466-foot general cargo carrier, after her five-day voyage through the St. Lawrence Seaway to the deepwater port on Lake Michigan. 

Nearly 1,650 tons of wind turbine hubs and nacelles shipped from Bilbao, Spain, will be unloaded from the M/V Muntgracht by port stevedore Federal Marine Terminals. Upon completion in Burns Harbor, the Netherlands-flagged M/V Muntgracht will travel to Thunder Bay Port in Canada to load the next shipment, which she will take to Europe.

The annual tradition to present the captain of the ship with a Steel Stein, which symbolizes Northwest Indiana’s role as “steel capital of North America” was canceled this year due to COVID-19 precautions. Instead, Captain Folkert Pans, his crew of 16 sailors and port officials exchanged friendly waves. 

Approximately 75 international vessels are expected to call at the port this year, a significant increase over last year. Most of the additional shipments will be energy-related cargo.

“Many of the components for the natural gas-powered electrical plants and the wind turbines are made internationally,” said Port Director Ian Hirt. “As the Midwest pivots from coal to natural gas and renewable energy sources, it makes sense for our port to handle the large-dimensional cargo and transload to the nearby final destination.”

Maritime operations at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor generate nearly $4.9 billion per year in economic activity and support more than 39,000 total jobs. The port handled nearly 2.6 million tons of cargo in 2019, a six percent decrease from 2018, due in part to high water levels and trade uncertainty.

The St. Lawrence Seaway opened its locks to ocean vessels on April 1, approximately a 10-day delay in an effort alleviate water levels on Lake Ontario.